As school holidays come to an end and people return to work, Australians are reminded to take precautions against another “substantial” wave of COVID-19.
There are currently more than 26,000 active cases of COVID-19 across the country, according to the federal government’s latest daily figures.
Here’s the breakdown by state and territory:
Due to changes in testing and reporting requirements, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly says these figures are likely underestimates.
“When you look at the official figures of cases, that reflects what’s happening in the community and it’s helpful for monitoring, but it’s not the total story,” he says.
“There is definitely more cases in the community than are being officially reported.”
Professor Kelly says the spike in cases since early December is driven by a new variant called JN.1, which descended from Omicron.
“When you look at the wave we’re having now, which is substantial, that’s a sign that COVID is circulating in the community,” he says.
“But there’s really been no evidence of an increased rate of death, even including aged care, and ICU rates remain relatively stable.”
How does this compare to previous months?
COVID-19 case numbers and related deaths have been on a downward trend over the past year.
“That’s mainly due to the hybrid immunity that we have at the moment from previous infection, but crucially from our high vaccination rates,” Professor Kelly says.
But he warns one of the reasons why we are seeing another wave now is because of waning immunity.
“I am concerned about those that are more vulnerable to severe diseases, so that’s people who are over the age of 75 in particular,” he says.
There’s been nearly a five-fold increase in cases in aged care homes over the past six months, with 419 facilities affected by an outbreak right now
“People are kind of sick of it,” Professor Kelly says.
“Their lived experience of COVID now is nowhere near as severe for most people compared with earlier in the pandemic, but it is still a serious issue for those that are more vulnerable to severe disease.”
He reminds Australians to keep their vaccinations up to date.
The latest COVID-19 advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is available here.
What do I do if I have COVID-19?
You’re not required by law to isolate if you have COVID-19 symptoms, but it is strongly encouraged you stay at home.
Here’s what the federal health website says to do if you test positive for COVID-19:
You should not visit high-risk settings like hospitals and aged and disability care settings:
- for at least 7 days or until symptoms have gone
- unless seeking immediate medical care.
To help protect those around you, we recommend:
- avoiding contact with people who are at higher risk of severe disease
- wearing a mask outside the home
- working from home where possible
- avoiding going to school, public areas, or travel on public transport, in taxis or ride-share services
- practising good hygiene
- following your local health department’s advice when leaving home.
If you have any appointments you cannot miss (visit to a doctor, family violence service or police), let them know in advance that you have COVID-19.
Call the COVID-19 helpline on 1800 020 080 if you need support or information. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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